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Should we boycott Facebook because of Cambridge Analytica?
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We should regulate Facebook to protect the public's data

In the same way that the European Union has begun to protect users' data rights with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is time for the US to regulate big tech as well. Data rights and privacy must be protected by the state.


In 2018, Facebook was embroiled in a data privacy scandal following an exposé on its use and sale of user data. Dr. Aleksandr Kogan and his company GSR used a personality quiz called "This Is Your Digital Life" to harvest the personal information of people who used it. About 300,000 people took the quiz, but due to Facebook's rules at that time, the quiz could also access the data of the user's friends even if those people had never authorised the app. In total, over 87 million people had their data harvested, and some of that information was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which used it in US political advertising. [1] Facebook's 2018 data privacy scandal led to a collective awakening on the importance of data, online privacy and the extent to which tech companies should have greater responsibilities placed onto them to protect users. The scandal resulting in sweeping legislative reforms from the European Union to Australia and, of course, calls to delete and boycott Facebook.

The Argument

A state can impose restrictions on a social network that has become de-facto a public service. Imposing constraints on a company's use of personal data must be part of the state's public service to protect its citizens. In the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, lawmakers in the US from both sides of the aisle aggressively called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of Congress on the lack of measure to safeguard user data. They pointed out that Facebook had achieved monopoly status and could not be trusted to self-regulate, anymore given the prominence of its use - 68% of US adults use Facebook, and more than two-thirds of that number check Facebook’s website or mobile app every single day.[2] While there exists a need for heightened regulation, what that regulation ought to look like is unclear with many states taking various approaches. Vermont legislated laws requiring brokers which buy and sell data from third parties to register with the state. In California, a law went into effect in January that would, among other things, give residents the ability to opt-out of having their data sold. [3] At a federal level, US Senator Amy Klobuchar has pushed for The Honest Ads Act, legislation that would result in increased transparency behind who pays for political ads online.[4] Elsewhere in the world the EU has passed the General Data Protection Regulation. Australia's privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, has recently announced plans to take Facebook to court for severe breaches of privacy of Australian users.[5] The varying approaches to social network regulation mentioned above point to existing lapses in regulation policy. Given how profitable user data is, states must make concerted efforts to keep regulate Facebook to protect users' data.

Counter arguments

It is difficult to impose constraints on a global company. Regulations such as GDPR are restricted to European Community members. An organization can easily circumvent such regulations, for instance, by relocating his head-quarter to a complacent country. Additionally, there are concerns about government regulations overreaching their claim to protect users' data. Regulations can indirectly restrict individual speech or directly limit the right to usage of an internet platform.[6] This is particularly important in the US where there are strong cultural and legislative norms warranting the protection of free speech. Many fear that robust regulation on social networks is a threat to the First Amendment.



Profit incentives mean that Facebook cannot be trusted to safeguard user privacy of their own accord.


User privacy is important. Left to their own, social media companies would fail to sufficiently self-regulate.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 30 Sep 2020 at 12:30 UTC

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